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Soup of This Day #308: It’s Wrapped Up In Conversation Whispered In A Hush

May 8, 2013

Kim Il-sung Stadium
Kim Il-sung Stadium, home to North Korea’s national football sides and where the Pyongyang Marathon starts and finishes – Photo: Stephan, 2008. Stephan is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by LOngworth72.

I’ve been a bit quiet of late. I managed just the 3 Soups in April, which is a record low for me by some margin since I started this gig.

Quiet is ok though – By itself there is nothing wrong with a pause, a moment in which nothing gets said. That silence can be a pretty powerful statement – A show of control and dignity.

It can also just be a sign of bemusement, confusion as to the state of the world.

The latter is pretty much the case with me – There was North Korea’s mad, bad belligerence, an insane quagmire on gun control and finally, the terrible assault on the Boston Marathon and its extraordinary aftermath. The whole has struck me dumb, at least as far as writing goes.

That’s probably not the right response to any of that. None of those things deserves silence. Instead, they would seem to need voices to speak up and for words to be written and read, to let the bastards know that they cannot triumph.

And the Boston atrocities in particular have generated many voices and miles of column inches. Some of it has been the kind of journalism that serves like we all imagine it should. The Boston Globe in particular was brilliant across the man-hunt, visceral without being exploitative, immediate without being intrusive. When I grow up as a writer (Which conceivably may never happen) I want to be like those guys and gals at the Globe.

BY contrast, some of the coverage has been a great hue and cry of distortion. Such a hyper-clamour that some have argued that the cacophony has been somehow disproportionate – Some 50 Iraqis lost their lives in terror bombings the same day, including 30 in the capital Baghdad, but with much less outcry in a Western world that has seemingly written off that country. This article assumes that view and asks the question of whether a Westerner’s life is more valuable than that of an Iraqi.

Of course any reasoned response is that you can’t measure the value of a life and so to compare is pointless. Instead it is far more accurate and valuable to check the context of those deaths.

Boston is not Baghdad.

The New England metropolis is by and large a peaceful city. Yes there was that original tea party thing, but really, the dumping of herbal leaves in protest at excise duty is not really jihad-type activity. And nowadays anyway the city is more known for its universities – Harvard is the No.1 ranked such institution in the world, while MIT, whose Cambridge campus is where the 2 suspects murdered a police office, is No.3. Complementing these houses of knowledge are a series of famed sporting outfits, the Bruins, the Celtics, the Patriots and the Red Sox.

Learning and sport.

That’s not what I think of when Baghdad blasts into my consciousness. That’d be more like bloody sectarian violence, corruption and non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

And carpets.

I’ve not heard about the quality of carpets from Boston. I had heard of their marathon. A marathon doesn’t make sense as a terrorist target. A carpet shop would ring truer – At least then you could see the motivation – Those bastards are underselling your underlay, pulling the rugs out from beneath your feet.

But a marathon?

People run those for many reasons – For personal development or to honour or help somebody else or even to let the assembly know that you beat the Persians. Whatever the cause, a marathon is not the kind of thing you complete for evil. It’s hard to imagine Kim Jong-un for instance legging out 42.195kms just to further his dastardly reign of weird terror.

Which is a shame because a nice jog through his country might be a real eye-opener for him, inducing some sanity and maybe a sense of compassion.

Or some sort of hypoglycaemic crash with delusions of omnipotence.

Probably the latter, because no matter the intentions, communism seems to end up like that – A bit mad and lacking in altruism or free human spirit. Marathons by contrast are a bit mad and full of altruism. Plus they’re chock to the brim with unfettered human spirit, because those epic runs are a wide array of individual efforts all pulling for a common and harmless goal.

Which might be how communism erroneously sees itself. It also happens to be a little bit like how I view basketball here in Perth, Western Australia.

We have a team, the Perth Wildcats, based out of my home town that competes in Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL) and they do quite well at it – They have appeared in the past 27 post-seasons and in 10 of those have made the Grand Final series. 5 of those championship-series have gone their way, making them the most successful club in the league’s history.

I’m pretty proud of them, as are most of my fellow Sandgropers, and by rights I should be a devout supporter – I like basketball and I love Perth. The trouble is though that they kind of feel like they’re the politburo’s hoop outfit of choice.

Yep, if the commie’s ever bounce back from glasnost and perestroika and get in the game, I reckon they’d feel ok with the Cats.

Not because the team in any way apes the worst excesses of communism – They seem like relatively nice capitalists. And I don’t get that sense of people’s revolution from the Perth uniforms either. Even if they are red. Nor do I get that comradely feeling from the subsequent nickname given to the Wildcat fans: The Red Army.

Because that’s been a nice neutral name throughout history.

My problem is that I get a slightly uncomfortable twinge in my political muscle when I watch them play at home. There, they pack in a crowd. For a recent Grand Final game they took in 13,500 fans – A sell-out in the Perth Arena and the largest NBL crowd since 1997 – An epic, seethingly choreographed chorus of red fanatics.

That full-house of red-clad fans, cheering and chanting on cue didn’t help much – Perth lost that game and consequently the title, going down to the New Zealand Breakers for the 3rd successive season. In all 3 of those seasons the Kiwi side has won the championship – A fairly notable achievement, although I’m not much of a follower of that team either.

Instead I figured I’d end this post with the country that the Breakers hail from – New Zealand. Because there, recently, a group of Kiwis raised their voices for something just a little bit important. It’s not sport but given the coming out of basketball’s Jason Collins I figure there is some relevance – Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the brilliant New Zealand parliament:

Holy @#$%balls Batman! Did they just celebrate legalising gay marriage by singing a Maori love song in their nation’s parliament? Why yes Robin, they did.

The woman who is the recipient of all of those hugs is Louisa Wall – She is the MP who introduced a private members bill to amend the definition of marriage. She is a former Silver Fern (New Zealand national netball team representative) as well as a a Black Fern (New Zealand national women’s rugby team representative). She is also openly a lesbian and following the passage of the landmark bill she declared:

‘We’ve all woken up now to a New Zealand that fundamentally believes in the human rights of all New Zealand citizens. It’s reminded me of a World Cup tournament… It’s been quite challenging, but it got more and more intense as we got to the final, and last night was the final.’

She’d know about that sort of analogy – She was part of the winning Kiwi side at the 1998 Women’s Rugby World Cup in Amsterdam.

According to their national anthem God defends New Zealand. And the country that God is apparently backing has just become the 13th in the world to legalise same-sex marriage.

That doesn’t cancel out the events in Boston or Baghdad, and nor does it make Pyongyang seem any less criminally bonkers.

It does give hope though – And it gave me something to write.

In the bonds of love we meet, hear our voices, we entreat, God defend your free land indeed.

It’s Wrapped Up In Conversation Whispered In A Hush

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